Cadiz again: 1826

An extract of a letter from M. L. B. of the Brig J-, to a friend in this Island, dated Newfoundland, August 1826. Published in L'Indépendance, Saturday, 21 October, 1826.

[A reproduction of a candidate for the ship, a watercolour of the 213 tonne Guernsey brig James, commander Nicolas Mahy, in 1828, can be found in the Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, XVI (1), Spring, 1960. Its owners, Thoume and Co., were based at the Long Store and also had a smaller brig Juliana, Captain Reeves, operating in 1827.]

To the Editor of the Independance.

Military Occupation.

'We have been at Bilboa and Cadiz; at the former place we found a market well stored with good fruit and vegetables, at moderate prices; not so at Cadiz, there, every thing is very dear; the meat like carrion, and the fruit and vegetables are rotten for want of buyers; not indeed because people are not as much inclined to buy then as ever they were, but alas! because they have no money, and the country people cannot afford to give them their goods for nothing, as the French have made them pay for bringing them in, and make them pay also for bringing them out again, therefore they must rot in the market. But I only allude to the inferior fruits, &c. for the valiant conquerors have decreed that the best shall be made use of, and as Cadiz is a noted place for disobedience to the authorities, they take it all to themselves for fear the rebels should suffer it to spoil, in spite of their decree—how very kind!

In fact they are kind to the Spaniards in every way imaginable, viz: They put all vessels in quarantine lest the Spaniards should catch the plague. They guard their city and its gates for fear any one should come in and hurt them. They have disbanded the Spanish soldiers in order that they may recover their health impaired by long fatigues. They have taken upon themselves the tedious task of collecting the taxes: and seeing that, in consequqnce of the calamities of the late war, many industrious people earn but little, they have resolved generously to assist them, and begin by those most in want, as for instance: the Inn-keepers, Coffee-house-keepers, Play-actors, and Bull-baiters. They have not yet extended their bounty to the Weavers, Hatters, Shoe-makers or Taylors; for they get all their apparel ready-made from France, from whence they also procure a great part of the provisions made use of on board their ships, also the hay and corn for their horses. But all this is done to avoid creating a scarcity, and yet, notwithstanding this extreme care the French take of them, a stranger cannot help remarking how lean and poor the Spaniards look!

On my approach to Cadiz, a pilot came alongside, and told me that I must cast anchor along side of the first French man-o'-war I met. Why, and by whose orders? By order of los Franceses, (the French); accordingly, I anchored within bail of a French brig, placed at the entrance of the bay, and was told I must remain there until the quarantine boat came to examine me; about two hours after the boat appeared, and having previously asked and obtained leave of the man-o'-war brig, came along side, and informed me that I must perform a quarantine of five days, although I came last from Bilboa, the healthiest part of Spain, and had a clean bill of health, but los Franceses would have it so. This was not all, for the going to the quarantine ground, near the Trocadero, cost me eighteen dollars for extra pilotage, and when I got there, a man came on board, who said that he was come to guard us, for which kind office he was to be by us well fed, and as well paid; who sent you, pray? said I, los Franceses; confound los Franceses, thought I. Among the vessels in quarantine were several Genoese, laden with wheat. I enquired how they could think of coming here with such a cargo, seeing that the importatin of grain was prohibited in Spain, 'Oh yes, but this is brought for los Franceses,' was the reply. To leave the quarantine ground, and go into harbour, I had to go in person aboard the French man-o'-war, and humbly ask leave. I wished to have taken a cod-fish to some old friends on shore, but was told that los Franceses would not allow it. My old friends I found still alive, but considerably reduced in circumstances. I went to an inn, which I found full of fat jolly looking people, feasting and carousing. Oh oh! said I, there are still at Cadiz some folks who can afford to live well. Ah signor, they are all Franceses. When I had weighed anchor, and stood out of the bay, I looked back towards the port, and beheld that vast sheet of water, supporting scarce any thing in the shape of a ship, save a few floating engines of destruction, whose white ensigns floated proudly over that deserted sea, which, a few years before, I had seen pressed by the weight of the richest cargoes brought from all parts of the world, by an innumerable number of ships, whose masts, like a thick forest, intercepted the view, but yet delighted the eye by theri diversity of form and size, and by the gay variety of the colours they displayed.

Casting my eyes on the city, I descried the lofty, but unfinished domes and towers of a magnificent cathedral, and transporting myself, in idea, within its sacred walls, and looking round, thus communed with myself: Why is the rattling of ropemakers' wheels substituted here to sacred music? and those niches, that were intended for the images of saints, why are they filled with coils of rope? Why are piles of timber placed for sale against the altar? Why are swallows suffered to foul and deface those beautiful cornices, and the rain to destroy those elegant and beautiful galleries; and those rich marbles of various hues, why are they broken by the rabble? Why is the foul language of mechanics and fishfags substituted here to prayer and solemn chant? Why, in short, is this house of God transformed into a den of thieves? Why? because this place has shared in the fate of unhappy Spain; the cause of ruin is for both the same, a bad and corrupt administration of public affairs, and the cupidity of the priests, who have been permitted to squander in debauchery a large portion of all the rich produce of the American mines, brought to Cadiz for the last hundred years. In the once busy and crowded streets of the city I missed the faithful gallegos (Galician porters renowned for their honesty) formerly seen to bend beneath the weight of the sacks of gold and silver, which they transported from one merchant's house to another. I recollected those once beautiful ramparts that seemed to bid proud defiance to the world in arms, now delapidated and broken down in several places, and slowly undermined by the sea, and I exclaimed alas! poor Spain!'